It’s 1914 (What on Earth Can Go Wrong?)


I was at a play at the splendid Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne a couople of days ago. It was about the decline of vaudeville and was set in a slightly mythical Melbourne in 1914 just on the point where vaudeville begins to collapse (and much more beside). The opening song is a wonderful upbeat pastiche celebrating all the great things about it being the year 1914. Not only was the irony of 1914 not lost on the audience, but the irony of 2008 was also running through the rather edgy laughter. What if we are on the edge of a similar precipice?

I then read Tom Friedman’s column in the New York times the next day. And there he is saying that we are now in August 1914, 9/12 or the day after Pearl Harbour. Two things have come together: an ecological crisis and an economic crisis that will prevent business as usual ever again. He calls it the Great Disruption that will live on in the imaginations of furture generations as the Great Depression has now.

He asks the simple question:

“What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

It is hard and necessary reflection.


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